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#5078: The Haitian Press and the Police: Simidor Responds to Kim Ives (fwd)
Kim Ives' answer to the questions raised about Haiti-Progrès' collaboration
with the New York City police is an attempt to smear his critics and to split
the Haitian Coalition for Justice along ideological lines. This is deja vu
and business as usual. It would appear that Haiti-Progrès is only opposed to
police brutality when there is no money involved. "By their deeds ye shall
know them." It doesn't matter how much Haiti-Progrès rails against "the
Macoute rag Haiti-Observateur" or "the new voice of the bourgeoisie, the
Haitian Times," when it comes to feeding at the police trough, Haiti-Progrès
is no different from its competition.
The honest thing would have been for Kim Ives to admit that Haiti-Progrès
cannot afford an editorial line against police brutality, or for that matter
against any corporation willing to buy ad space in its pages. I recall how
in 1991 Haiti-Progrès betrayed a mostly Haitian work force on strike against
the Domsey Trading Corp., a sweatshop on the Brooklyn waterfront.
Haiti-Progrès supported the strike with some articles at first. But after
the racist bosses (they contemptuously referred to the Haitian workers as
monkeys and AIDS-carriers) broke the strike, Haiti-Progrès sold Domsey both
ad space and a friendly interview (I still have the clippings somewhere that
Kim Ives knows that he faces immediate expulsion from the Haitian Coalition
for Justice because of Haiti-Progrès' intractable position regarding the
police ads. He wants to leave with a maximum number of people in order to
paralyze the Coalition's work. But he also knows that no one will walk out
with him on the real issue of the police ads. Hence his attempt to shift the
debate along a pro-Lavalas, non-Lavalas ideological divide. Whose interests
do such tactics really serve? What Kim doesn't say is that Haitian politics
are banned from all meetings and activities of the Coalition. This ban,
rigorously abided by all, has allowed pro-Lavalas and non-Lavalas forces to
coexist cordially within the Coalition -- although pressures from right-wing
Lavalas sources outside the Coalition have caused several people to withdraw.
My good friend Kim is hardly in a position to lecture me about shadow and
prey. City Hall may well fear a Federal oversight of the NYC police. For me
to state what the man on the street is saying hardly constitutes an
endorsement. Kim Ives is simply grasping at straws. That "police brutality
is systemic to capitalism" is precisely what Haiti-Progrès should have
replied when the police PR man came knocking on their door. This late bit of
political correctness hardly has any meaning now. Actions do speak louder
than words. As for the gratuitous attack on l'Heure Haitienne, a
commercial-free, community Creole broadcast produced by an alumnus on
Columbia University's student radio, it is more grasping at straws. I would
laugh more freely if Ben Dupuy had not on two occasions lobbied Columbia
University to shut down the l'Heure Haitienne program.
Kim wants to deflect criticism about the police ads onto Haiti-Observateur
and the Haitian Times. But how can we criticize those two papers unless we
clean our own house first? Besides, no matter how reprehensible, the
behavior of those two papers was entirely predictable. Haiti-Observateur is
openly allied with Giuliani's City Hall. The Haitian Times' lust for
corporate sponsorship is equally out in the open. Haiti-Progrès' treacherous
action is really what stands out here. Kim Ives himself conceded not too
long ago in front of Pat Chin, a leader of the Workers World Party
(Haiti-Progrès' No. 1 ally on the US left), that the first round of police
minority recruitment ads, in the aftermath of the Abner Louima incident, was
a "mistake." If carrying a police PR campaign was a mistake then, it is even
more so today.
One of the ironies of this sort of campaign is that the police only have a
limited interest in minority recruitment. It was revealed after the first
round of minority recruiting ads in 1997 that the police actually hired very
few minority officers, even though the minority candidates actually exceeded
the education requirements for police entrance, contrary to their white
counterparts. Then as now the so-called minority recruitment ads were
attempts at damage control, necessitated by the widespread exposure of police
misconduct in dealing with minority communities.
Another irony of this situation is that Haiti-Progrès contributed its fair
share in exposing police misconduct in New York City, which in turn made the
paper an attractive target for the police PR campaign. Haiti-Progrès is in a
good position to know that the police are not about to change their ways. At
a July 29th demonstration protesting D.A. Robert Morgenthau's decision not
to indict the cops who killed Patrick Dorismond, thugs working in conjunction
with the police savagely attacked a white activist connected with
Haiti-Progrès. The message was clear: we (meaning the police) are not
The charges of ultra-leftism against me are tiresome and hard to take
seriously. The talk about "tiny groups, often one or two people, without
constituents or auto-criticisms and discussions" is all hot air, considering
that my political practice over the past 15 years has been within the context
of broad coalitions and mass movements. Kim is barking up the wrong tree.
In 1990-91, I and my "cohorts" criticized the Lavalas electoral road to power
as a populist illusion heading toward disaster and a complete betrayal of the
people's basic demands. History proved us right on both counts.
When Aristide was overthrown in late Sep. 1991, it was the left opposition,
together with Wilson Desir and people like Sò Ann, who led the demonstrations
and mass mobilization in New York City. Only those who marched along with us
night and day that late fall and winter will understand why I still enjoy a
friendly neutrality with many local Lavalas activists: they respect my
commitment to Haiti as I respect theirs. Those who accommodated themselves
then with the coup, thinking it irreversible, are the staunchest and most
fanatical of Lavalas partisans today. As are the dope dealers, the former
FRAPH and FAd'H men, the "patrie-poche" bourgeoisie, who have thrown their
lot today with Tabarre.
In Feb. 1992, Aristide signed a first Protocol of Agreement in Venezuela,
signaling an irreversible path toward compromise, endless negotiations and
foreign intervention. I raised my voice then against capitulation, as I
raise it now against Lavalas cynicism and hegemonic ambitions.
Does Kim Ives deny the presence of drug lords within the Lavalas spectrum?
What does he make of Jean Dominique's prophetic blast against recently
"elected" Senator Dany Toussaint? ("Does Dany Toussaint Take the Children of
God for a Pack of Wild Geese?") How does Kim account for all the arrogant
new mansions of his Lavalas cohorts? The children of God are not blind.
They need no other proof than the evidence of what they see and what they
hear. Kim Ives the journalist knows all this too well, but the clever folks
at Haiti-Progrès are not about to repeat Jean Dominique's fatal mistake.
In just a few short years, Lavalas populism and the traditional enemies of
change have exhausted the revolutionary potential of an entire generation.
Haitians today look at the future of their country and despair at the
spectacle of endemic corruption, insecurity, abject poverty and foreign
dependency. The most urgent task for all the sane forces in and outside of
Haiti, this "super ultra-left revolutionary" contends, is to build a culture
of democracy and accountability in order to halt our dangerous slide toward
fascism. My friend Kim can keep his great allies: Milosevic, Hugo Chavez,
Saddam Hussein and Arafat. They have very little to contribute to that task.
But does publishing occasionally in the pages of Haiti-Progrès or
Haiti-en-Marche really make me an opportunist? The most obvious course for
an opportunist would have been to keep my mouth shut and avoid losing my
one-time free subscription to the paper. The truth is that I have few
illusions about the publishers of these two newspapers. My decision to
submit an article to either one has to do with their actual readership.
Likewise, the publisher or editorial staff of each paper makes a
determination of whom and what to publish. That's what Kim Ives means when
he says that Haiti-Progrès "is above all a political organ." You couldn't
for instance get Haiti-Progrès to carry an anti-Lavalas ad today even at the
generous rates paid by the police. So why the New York City police and not
the anti-Lavalas opposition in Haiti?
Finally, does this latest act of money-grabbing opportunism mean that
Haiti-Progrès has joined the camp of reaction? Or does it mean that the
paper has no real grounding outside the whims of its publisher? In either
case, one gets the sense of Kim Ives, an otherwise committed and dynamic
journalist, impossibly caught between a rock and a hard place.